THE ONCE AND FUTURE METROPOLIS:
URBANIZATION, CONFLICT, AND COMMUNITY IN BERLIN
27 JUNE - 27 JULY 2019
Final Film Festival & Farewell Dinner
26 July 2019
And that's a wrap! We concluded our 30-day study abroad in Berlin with a final film festival and celebratory meal.
Each week, students worked in groups of two or three to create 3-5 minute films all over the city. While the locations such as parks, paths, and adaptive reuse sites were assigned, students were responsible for choosing their own theme and telling their own stories. These exercises were intended to prepare students for their final projects, which would be completed independently. Each student was asked to produce a 5-10 minute film exploring a component of the city through the lens of their own experience, of by a theme of their choice. We rented a private cinema space in the city center, and invited our guest lecturers to help judge the films. Overall, the films were engaging, well-edited, and showed a lot of growth from the beginning of the quarter. We spent almost two hours watching the films before making our way to dinner at Restaurant Defne where we awarded prizes to the winners. And the winners are...
Best Picture: Emma Wilson, A Trophy of Democracy
Honorable Mention: Blair Ivy, Matriarchal Collapse
Best Screenplay: Vivian Daigre, Feel the Right Thing
Best Cinematography: Greta DuBois, WALLED
Audience Choice: Ava Ross, Brew of Berlin
We took time to share our favorite moments of the trip, what we did, and what we learned. Many students flew home to Seattle the next morning, and some are off to their next adventures all across Europe. On the whole, we made a great team and we would do it all over again tomorrow. Auf Wiedersehen!
Tempelhof Terminal Tour & Tempelhofer Feld
24 July 2019
The film Zentralflughafen THF by Karim Aïnouz introduced us to Berlin's emergency strategy to house refugees, starting in 2015. Of the hundreds of thousands of refugees coming to Berlin from countries such as Syria and Iraq, over 2,000 people found their first temporary home at the former Tempelhof Airport. In 2017, people were moved from the airport hangars to a container village on the edge of the airport and have since been relocated all across Germany. The film chronicles a year in the lives of asylum seekers living at the airport, which only adds to the airport's complex history.
This grand, imposing structure was redesigned by Ernst Sagebiel during the Nazi Era under Hitler's commands to transform the airport into the most prominent airport in the world. It was to be used for Germany's military force as well as civilians, and was designed to align with the north-south axis of the new Berlin, rechristened "Global World Capital" Germania, being planned by Albert Speer. Germania was never completed, and surprisingly, the airport was largely spared by allied bombers during WWII. Later, it was utilized by the US Air Force, most famously to provide goods to West Berlin during the Soviet blockade of 1948-9. Tempelhof closed as an airport in 2008. While the terminal is preserved as a relic of its time, the large airfield has been transformed into a public park, Tempelhofer Feld.
Tempelhofer Feld is an 877 acre site, making it the largest inner city open space in the world. Due to its scale and central location, this space has been highly contested within Berlin's political sphere. The park currently provides habitat for the skylark, garden space, open fields, and plenty of room for biking, running, skateboarding, kite flying, and more. As a group, we walked through the park and discussed who we saw using the park, and what we they were doing. We then talked about who wasn't at the park, and why. How can public spaces be inclusive for all populations? Is providing bird habitat more important than providing space for low-income housing? Who should make these decisions? We didn't have all the answers, and acknowledge how these same questions can be applied to public spaces around the world.
It's been a real journey, ups, downs, sideways and back, but I've really fallen in love with this city. I told Evan during the one-on-one's that coming back here was not a matter of "if" but rather a matter of "when". The freedom to be yourself, the liberty and support to try new things, and the absolute potential to experiment in every aspect of the word, that's the essence of Berlin. The people drive me crazy in the best way's with every bus ride adventure and off-handed field trip, I find a new part of myself in the walls of the city, in the streets and bottle caps that riddle the sidewalks, I find a sense of hope and freedom. I don't know where I'll be when I come home, in fact, I hardly know if I can call it home anymore, I feel more comfortable under the bridges and subway tunnels here than I ever felt on the streets in Seattle. How did I come as a tourist but leave feeling like a local? I've been inspired again for the first time in a long time to be myself, to forget the normativity and stress of the day to day and simply live in the moment. I keep questioning how it'll feel to come home to a city that I feel almost unfamiliar with. I've resolved to treat Seattle as I've treated Berlin, to live like a tourist and thus abandon the restrictions of reputation and embarrassment, to explore my home with the same fervor and passion that I've experienced here. I know so little of the city that I've grown up in. Why was it founded? Who started it? Where is it headed? Where's the best cafe? For god's sake, I'm a Seattleite that's never been to a cafe alone. There are so many things I've neglected in the city because I've felt far too comfortable as a local. I kept the "derive" packet, it's still fresh. I'm taking it home and I'll take an adventure in my hometown. I'll find the parts of the city that I've walked past a million times and find meaning in the walls and art that seemed meaningless before. It's time to go, literally, I'm leaving Berlin in only two days and that hits so much harder than when I'd left home the first time around. I do hope I learn to love my home as much as I've loved this city, it's been an experience that I'd be hard-pressed to forget. When the time comes, I'll leave, but a part of me will stay. One day I'll come back and find myself lost in the waves of this city and I'll remember what I loved so much.
The trip to Berlin has been more thought provoking than you expected. Before you left you imagined a relaxed time seeing the famous sites and strolling through the historic streets of Germany's capital. There was some of that on the trip, but what you could not have foreseen were the conversations of history and remembrance as well as the emphasis on civic activism. These have given you a new insight into urban planning. It is especially useful since you are from a country that as a whole has not reckoned with its past in a very meaningful way. David Brooks of the New York Times described America as "a nation constantly thinking of itself in the future." The emphasis on the future is certainly strong in the United States. In my limited experience I have found that history is not the average American's strong suit. A movie about our vice president from 2000-2008 was a hit and treated like a revelatory expose, yet it all happened within our lifetimes. Nevertheless, Berlin has shown how important history can be in the context of urban planning. The debates over usage of space and how to preserve a controversial history are very common in Berlin and could be very useful in the United States. Especially in the South and the Pacific Northwest where slavery, segregation, and Japanese internment have left their marks on the built environment. By studying how Berliners use and address the wrongs of a past Germany you can see how those in America can begin the process of properly remembering American history.
Not only have you seen how Berliners tackle the past, but you've seen how they live in the present. Public drinking, bottle collectors, openness in public space are just a few of the things Berliners do different from Seattleites. In some ways it must be refreshing to live in such an openminded society where people mind their own business and are not as judgmental as Seattleites. Your American perspective must have been jarred when you saw people making out in the park, wearing crazy outfits, or publicly drinking. This must have made you consider how liberal Seattle actually is. While Seattle may vote for liberal policies and hold itself up as a beacon for progressive leadership the attitudes of citizens are certainly much different in comparison to Berlin. Seattle must feel painfully conservative. The people of Berlin must feel more accepting and kind, even if you do not speak their language. The people of Berlin seem calm and thoughtful, as though they are at peace with themselves, in comparison people of Seattle seem crazed, confused, and worried. While these are generalizations I'm sure you have observed similar phenomena. Perhaps a Berliner on a train wearing a bold outfit or sporting an unconventional haircut, but looking calm as if they are comfortable with their strange outward appearance. While Seattle seems full of uncomfortable people always loudly grasping for attention. Perhaps this has not been your impression of the two cities, they are both large and diverse. Nevertheless, enjoy your final fleeting moments in a truly impressive city.
River Cruise & Zollpackhof
22 July 2019
To wrap up our final week in Berlin, we swapped the classroom for a river cruise to gain a new view of the city. We met at Reederei Riedel at Moltebrücke on Monday evening to see central Berlin from the Spree river. The tour offered new views and factoids of famous sites such as the government quarter, Museum Island, and Tiergarten. After the cruise, we crossed the bridge for a group dinner at Zollpackhof, a traditional Bavarian beer garden with outdoor seating, a walk-up window, and pretzels galore. It was nice to have a moment to slow down and enjoy time together before the impending work of final facilitations and film projects -- due Friday.
Severija Janusauskaite in 'Babylon Berlin'
To the performer in Babylon Berlin,
I was initially thrown off by the scene because of the dances on stage and the way the men acted in the club, but the song was absolutely captivating. The quality of the performance by you, Severija Janusauskaite, left an impression on me. With little context of he scene and knowing almost no German, it was still clear that the song had some sort of enchanting meaning behind it. The song "Zu Asche, Zu Staub" is about a choice between agony and eternity. You, Severija, as the song writer and performer are asking to be recognized by the one you love, which will lead to immortality. The use of cross-dressing is an incredible added element to the scene. It represents sexual liberation in Berlin at the time. These ideas are still controversial in the United States and is a relief to see the acceptance portrayed in this scene on any media platform. The man in the back of the club that is completely entranced by the performance is another excellent element of the scene. He is clearly eating up every word you are signing and displays a lustful and emotional response to the music with an idealized, "Great Gatsby"-esque version of a 1920s club as a backdrop. To me, the scene is excellent in every aspect and that is because of your performance. I have been searching the internet but have not been able to find a platform to watch all of Babylon Berlin, but I am determined to once I get home. Thank you for an inspiring performance and creating a space for a discussion of gender norms in media. You are incredible!
Berlin trümmerfrauen (rubble women)
I want to start off by thanking you. You were the face of radical change and exchange of gender roles but by no means was it on purpose and that is why it was such a challenge. You were forced to take care of what was left of your family, clean up the city, and learn to help operate a functioning city again. Many of you after losing your husbands, brothers, sons, and having to pick up where you left off and begin rebuilding your own homes from the destroyed rubble.
I can’t imagine what had been going through your minds day to day. Maybe your husband had been lost to the war, but it had all been for nothing. Do you feel ashamed? Are you angry? How do you begin to process that kind of emotional trauma while literally cleaning up the mess that was left behind? There is joy and hope after any way ends, to pickup and begin to live a normal life, or at least try to find some peace in the end of the fighting. But how do you do it when you’ve lost so much?
Yet you all took on roles many never thought you would. Some became masons, engineers, drivers, others owned stores, watched over children, and cooked for many. But day to day, you had to work with little pay and few rights. As the cleaners and builders of the new cities all over Germany, you were given little respect yet where would they be without you? In my 21st century life, I cannot imagine being enlisted to sift through endless piles of bricks, constantly haunted by what created such a mess and left such a scar on my city. As a young woman now, I have opportunities that many of you never did and rights that many before me had to fight for. I am lucky enough to be able to receive a full education and not have to worry about financing myself, while many of you struggled to get enough pay to buy a loaf of bread after a week of sifting through rubble.
Not to mention the emotional trauma that comes with piling brick after brick of your homes, your neighbor’s homes, and your local café. To be thrown into this job, wondering how many people you know are gone, pulling brick after brick out, and learning how to operate machines to help move all of it away. Bury it in a hill somewhere to be forgotten about. To feel like your world has come to a stop, begin to find your place again as a hard working woman, only to be pushed back out after many of the men return and demand their jobs back and deny your rights. I can’t imagine the turmoil you went through picking up what we consider history, but to you was only weeks ago.
I support you in all your confused, heartbroken, and lost states, you made more of an impact than you thought.
Berlin Wall Memorial, East Side Gallery & Hohenschönhausen Memorial
16 July 2019
We covered lots of ground on Tuesday, beginning at 10 a.m. at Bernauer Straße. Running from Mitte to Prenzlauer Berg, this stretch of the Berlin Wall was famous for escapes through windows and underground, as people fled from the East to the West. Many people died trying to escape and are now memorialized in this space. Subway lines that ran through this neighborhood were sealed off and known as 'ghost stations'. Many apartments and a church that bordered this section of the wall were emptied, and flattened. When the wall fell in 1989, work began to open up this portion of the wall immediately, making it one of the first formal passages to the West.
We then went to the East Side Gallery, which had a much different energy. Located in the Friedrichshain neighborhood and overwhelmed by tourists, this portion of the wall is publicly available at all times of the day. Known as the "largest open air gallery in the world," the East Side Gallery features over 100 large-format paintings, depicting everything from Thierry Noir's cartoon heads to to the Fraternal Kiss by Dmitri Vrubel, to It Happened in November, seen left. Symbols of joy, peace, and freedom run throughout. Walking along the wall allowed us to acknowledge the past, and find hope for what's to come.
We shifted gears at the end of the day to prepare for our next portion of the trip, focusing on surveillance during the divided era. As a precursor to the film The Lives of Others, we made a visit to the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. This site served as a Soviet prison immediately after the war, then as a Stasi prison for the years 1951-1989. The GDR locked up, interrogated, and tortured thousands of political opponents during this time. When the wall came down, the site was left virtually untouched. Educational tours are now guided by experts and former inmates, which was a powerful experience. We were left with the sentiment, "Now you've seen what can happen -- protect your democracy at all costs."
15 July 2019
We joined Tobias Morawski after class on Monday for a tour of Kreuzberg's graffiti and street art scene. Tobi is an author and archivist for the Archive of Youth Cultures Berlin. As a local expert, he was able to share the inspiration, process, and intent behind many of the major pieces in the neighborhood. We met at Kottbusser Tor ("Kotti"), a predominantly Turkish neighborhood, to learn about the organized action of tenants against rent increases, evictions, and gentrification. This movement, communicated on its walls through art, has brought issues of social housing and the displacement of long-term residents to the forefront of political conversations.
Berlin Not for Sale, to the left, is a piece created by Tobi and other graffiti art activists in cooperation with the residents of the building. It responds to the current gentrification wave in Berlin and the Kreuzberg neighborhood in particular. Here, each Monopoly square represents a site in the neighborhood -- a parody of the way outsider "investors" see the city -- paired with various examples of local resistance.
We talked a lot about the role that street artists play in attracting folks to the neighborhood, whether they intend to or not. For that reason, most new graffiti in the neighborhood isn't necessarily beautiful, and will likely come with a political message, be it 'live now', 'hipsters get out', or 'smash the patriarchy'.
Jason Lutes' graphic novel 'City of Stones', page 96
A Spool of Thread
You must be wondering why I’ve decided to write you so soon, as we have only just become acquainted. But I have to say that in these fleeting moments together, I’ve become quite attached to you. You have been a tremendous help to me in understanding my place in this city of stones. I have been feeling quite disconnected here, not just because of my general away-ness from things that are known to me, but also because I am residing in a place that has lived a history I have not. In fact, it has lived a history that I know I will never know.
Each cobblestone, each building, each bottle cap pressed into the pavement is something I can view, interpret, and offer opinions on, but I will never have the agency to fully understand. I developed as a person in one area, so dare I have the audacity to feel any bit of comfort or understanding in a place that others call home?
For me the answer was no, I should not dare. I spent the first week of this adventure on edge, attempting to slip through places and by people without them realizing who I truly was: an outsider. I failed to allow the city to disorient me or connect with me, I simply remained in a place of isolation.
It turns out that this is how I thought I was living, but the city was more powerful than the sense I had of how I should be positioned within it. Something miraculous did shake this way of thinking, in case you were wondering. I walked off of the train from Hamburg and felt a welcoming feeling as I emerged from the S-Bahn station into the rays of sunlight jutting out from above the clouds. At the same time I felt a sense of relief, I also felt a connection to the streets, the sounds, even the way my feet stepped along the cobblestones.
I felt as Lutes describes, as though my life was a spool of thread, finally becoming entangled with the life of Berlin and the lives of the people that inhabit it. So, instead of feeling as though I have no right to feel comfort and understanding, I am now attempting to begin writing my own version of the story that past and present Berlin have to tell me. The history that I know is only part of the story, the rest I have to figure out for myself.
This begins with spreading my thread everywhere I possibly can.
Joseph and a page in the story of his division
How do I remember my own family?
My first memories of my family are seeing a swastika in my dads box of memories. A bright red armband with a strange black symbol on it that scared me even as a child. It was accompanied by a small metal eagle pin with the swastika clasped in its claws. Accompanying both of these hateful symbols was a purple heart, a picture of a man drinking whiskey, and a picture of a man in uniform mounted on a horse. The man drinking was my grandfather, Stephen. The man on the horse was Joseph, my grandmother's brother. Both were veterans of the second world war. Stephen came back from the war with the armband and the eagle, which he presumably took from a dead Nazi. Joseph came back as a soft purple ribbon attached to a small heart surrounded by a gold rim in a matching velvet box, it was too important for me to even touch.
The other important part of remembering my family is thinking about my great grandparents. They were Polish immigrants who arrived in 1917 to New York City. When they came their name was misspelled by immigration and changed from Kalodic to Calodich. They were afraid to speak Polish and were forced to assimilate to American culture.
These two stories have combined to create my name; Joseph Stephen Calodich. A combination of World War II veterans and an immigration agents' misspelling. My first name is Joseph, after a member of the 101st Cavalry who died only months before the end of the war. My last name is Polish but was created by an immigration agent. A fabricated fusion of the homeland of my ancestors but also my own home country.
How does my family history affect the way I see memorials?
Visiting the memorials has been difficult. Both Neuengamme and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe were very powerful memorial sites. Neuengamme forced me to confront the evils of concentration camps in real life. To walk on the same ground where thousands of Poles, Jews, Soviets, Roma, Homosexuals, and others were murdered was very overwhelming. The foundations of buildings and the outline of the fence gave the sight a haunting feeling. Seeing the faces of people who were murdered there and hearing the stories of how the inmates died was the most shocking part. Seeing names that were similar to mine, knowing people like me died there made the sight especially personal. It also made comments that diminished the experiences of camp inmates especially offensive, hurtful, and unforgivable.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was certainly more interpretive than the camp. This presents a double edged sword as a memorial. On one side, a visitor who is willing to comprehend the horrors of the holocaust can gain lots of personal meaning from the site. On the other side, those who are not prepared to deal with the holocaust, or who don't really care about it can easily end up getting nothing out of it and disrespecting a very sensitive memorial. The museum portion portrayed the personal stories of victims by extending the stones into the museum and showing visitors graphic and personal images to put faces behind the horrors of the holocaust. This site presented a very personal side to the holocaust that reminded me of my family history and how people just like me were senselessly murdered.
Overall the sites reminded me of my family history and gave me a more personal connection to the horrors of the Nazi regime. I was constantly reminded of my own families sacrifice in fighting against the most despicable thing that every happened as well as the fact that people just like me were victims of the genocide.
The way the atrocities were remembered forced me to think about my own family and relation to the Holocaust, this gave me two simple thoughts:
These historical events are real to me. They should never be forgotten or belittled.
Olympiastadion & the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
11 July 2019
The weight of the day hung in the air as we shared a traditional German meal together after class on Thursday. We were ambitious in our efforts to visit to Berlin's Olympiastadion and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe during a student-led tour of Nazi and Postwar Era Berlin.
We met at the Olympiastadion on the far west side of Berlin. The massive arena was built by Werner March for the 1936 Summer Olympics under the orders of Adolf Hitler, for propaganda purposes. The stadium is massive and imposing. Its stone-clad neoclassical design was intended to draw similarities to the imperial power of ancient Rome. Statues and engravings of Aryan athletes can be seen throughout. We went up to the Glockenturm (Bell Tower) which provided a panorama view of the grounds and the city beyond, from Spandau in the west to Alexanderplatz in the city center. While exploring the grounds, we discussed the power, danger, and permanency of architecture. These discussions were supported by historic films watched on site as well as Leni Riefenstahl's controversial film, Olympia.
We left the Olympiastadion in the afternoon and headed to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in the heart of Berlin. Created by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold, the memorial encompasses an entire city block with concrete blocks on a sloping field. At the surface the stones resemble coffins, and as you walk down into the site they rise rapidly around you. The narrow paths force visitors to walk through the stones alone. We met at a far corner of the site for somber group reflection. We then entered the underground "Place of Information." In contrast to the abstract memorial above ground, the museum below displays the names of the Jewish Holocaust victims as well as hand-written letters and photos, detailing the personal accounts of the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. This was a hard day for all of us. Many of us are still overwhelmed attempting to reconcile the size and weight of the day -- a massive stadium built to promote Nazi ideology -- 2,711 larger-than-life concrete blocks surrounding us -- over 3,000,000 lives lost.
Neuengamme, Lübeck & Hamburg
5-7 July 2019
We disembarked from Plus Hotel early Friday morning for our weekend away in Hamburg. After a two hour train ride across green pastures and rural landscapes, we dropped our bags at Generator Hostel, grabbed a snack, and got right back on a train to Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial.
None of us had heard of the Neuengamme concentration camp prior to this trip, and for that reason, we didn't know how to formulate our expectations. We learned that the camp was used as a prison after WWII, and the concentration camp was largely forgotten. Over time, the voices of survivors and their families rose to advocate for the creation of a formal memorial site. The Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial was inaugurated on the 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation in May 2005. The site itself is over 140 acres in size with 17 buildings – much larger than we had imagined. It also had over 85 satellite camps, all across northern Germany. At these camps, people were systematically worked to death, starved to death, or froze to death. Altogether, at least 42,900 people died at this concentration camp, one that none of us had heard of. Visiting the memorial was a sobering experience. We had time to reflect as a group and will not soon forget our visit.
After a warm and filling dinner at Singh Indian Restaurant, nine of us committed to waking up early on Saturday morning to visit Lübeck, a medieval town in northern Germany, roughly an hour outside of Hamburg. Lübeck is a walled town characterized by its 15th century red brick Gothic architecture, a sharp contrast from the urban fabric of Berlin that we had all become accustomed to.
Evan led us on an improvised tour of the town, finding a map to get our bearings, noting a few key sites that we wouldn't want to miss, and stopping at new points of interest along the way. We discussed Lübeck's historic importance as the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, a major hub for commerce and free trade across Northern Europe. We were awestruck by its Gothic cathedrals and enamored by its picturesque side streets and courtyards. Flowers bloomed from the concrete and ivy crawled up every structure. We had our first rain spell on the way out and made it back to Hamburg in the early evening.
We met urban planner Johannes Robert at Kesselhaus Hamburg on Sunday morning for a tour of HafenCity, which translates to Port City. HafenCity is a former warehouse district and Europe's largest inner-city urban development project, located along the waterfront of the Elbe River. The newness of the district and access to the waterfront drew comparisons to Seattle's South Lake Union. In addition to office and retail spaces, however, HafenCity requires buildings to have multiple uses that benefit the public good such as elementary schools, parks, and public community spaces. This effort reflects their goal to improve urban life within the district. As Johannes put it, "Urban life is about how many opportunities you have to interact with the people around you."
Our tour focused on the district's three main concepts: sustainability, infrastructure, and mobility. Most notably, we saw buildings with reinforced siding and windows at the ground level that can be sealed as a barrier against the extreme flooding the neighborhood will face each year. We also took a look at the Unilever headquarters, a building wrapped with a single-layer film facade to protect the building from the strong winds of the Elbe. We ended the tour at Grasbrook Park which offered fun for all ages, such as an in-ground trampoline, exercise equipment, and water features. Currently, 68 projects are completed with another 71 under construction or in the planning phase.
Learn more at HafenCity.com.
Neukölln & Tempelhofer Feld
4 July 2019
We had the pleasure of meeting Dr Michael LaFond, a community developer, project manager, and urbanist. Michael has a PhD in Urban Design and Planning from the University of Washington, and has since been working with alternative housing projects around the world. He gave us a tour of the Spreefeld Housing Cooperative in Kreuzberg, where he lives. This space combines apartment-style housing with large open community spaces, a kindergarten, a wood shop, an edible garden, public green space, and more. The site was beautiful, relaxed, engaging, and inspiring to many of our students.
Michael introduced us to Refugio Berlin, a mixed-use space in Neukölln that offers a café and conference room on the ground floor, artist and dance studios on the second floor, and housing for new and old Berliners on the floors above. Supported by the Berlin City Mission, this project is an extraordinary example for cities around the world working to welcome and support refugees.
From there, we went to VOLLGUT, a sustainable reuse project on the grounds of the former Kindl brewery in the Rollberg neighborhood. The major goal of this space is to secure a major site in Neukölln for long-term social, creative, and ecological uses.
Lastly, we made our first group visit to Tempelhofer Feld. The former Tempelhof airport has been recently converted to a 950-acre public park, backed by popular demand. The site was once used to transport goods to West Berlin during the Cold War and now offers space for cycling, skating, and jogging, barbecuing, sunbathing, dog-walking, gardening, and more. We were fortunate to visit the park on a gorgeous day, and will certainly be going back.
Dérive in Gropiusstadt
3 July 2019
"In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important fact in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones."
Guy Debord (1958)
Students took the train to Berlin's Gropiusstadt borough in Neukölln to begin a practice of unlearning the ways we have been trained to interact with our built environment. Constructed beginning in 1960, Gropiusstadt is a neighborhood built in the postwar modernist style, named after Walter Gropius who was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School. The neighborhood is known for its high density buildings and vast open spaces. We gathered in one such open space to introduce the activity, and send students on their alternative pathways. Students grouped up and used small booklets with prompts such as:
- Find an object you can stand on. Get up there and have a look around.
- Find a shortcut. Use it.
- Find out where that strange smell is coming from.
- Sense the beach beneath the pavement.
We met back at the classroom to debrief and document our experiences. Rather than using traditional mapping techniques, students mapped their lived experiences using self-made paths, words, drawings, and verbal descriptions. We discussed map making as a practice and addressed concerns such as who creates the maps we use? How do they decide what is displayed most prominently? And how do the biases of map makers impact the way we interact with the world? In the end, we agreed that the only map you can really trust, is the one you draw yourself.
2 July 2019
Dear Spreeacker Housing Co-Op,
I am in love with you and your principles of community and sustainability. When I first met you I walked into your public, open space and immediately felt welcomed with open arms. As a student of the CEP major, I have always been drawn to spaces and environments that exist to bring people and communities closer. Learning about you from your creator, Michael Lafond, made me feel excited, hopeful, and inspired. The entire concept of a communal living space is something that I am completely driven to become a part of. I have also found a new academic/career path that I would like to explore more and focus on as I enter my senior year in CEP and eventually as a working member of society. I like to think of myself as a "multi-potentialite," which is someone who finds interest and passion in multiple things rather than just one. It is really easy for me to become quickly infatuated with things/ideas that I learn about, and you, my precious housing co-op, are the most recent case of this phenomenon. I have many passions and future careers that I would like to fulfill within my life, and helping to create a housing co-op like you is now very high up on my list. Something specific to the concept of housing co-ops that I find to be missing in American single-family living styles is the idea of sharing. As an only child who grew up in very private and sheltered communities/houses, I have never been exposed to this grand idea of sharing. I think that is a large reason as to why I'm so drawn to the community aspect of you, housing co-op. I am drawn to people, and I want others who may not feel this way to learn how valuable the presence of other people can be. I think that I can challenge myself by bringing and producing a co-op like you back home in Seattle or Portland. A project of your size and significance is somewhat intimidating to me, but I have never felt so driven to do something so ambitious and important to both me and society.
A Small Sestina to my Monatskarte
of Berlin. Parallel and perpendicular to the Spree
run the lines of trains and buses, connecting the north and south to the east
and west. These lines are the modern causeways
of the transportation of art, ideas, and people.
And the Monatskarte is my link as an outsider.
On the U-bahn, the octave of my voice reveals me as an outsider
but the other patrons do not seem to mind as we criss-cross the city.
The train car is full of variations of people
Who look out to the Spree
as we pass it by. I wonder which causeway
brought them here as we enter the east.
There are still scars from regimes past in the east,
however, the significance is difficult for an outsider
to understand. By what causeway
-s was the landscape changed? Remembrance is painted all over the city,
and decrepit factories line the Spree.
But, the true regeneration is the people.
The Monatskarte is my key to a greater understanding of Berlin’s people
What began as an uncertain adventure from the United States, east
to a city connected by the roads, trains, and the Spree.
When I am alone and can observe, I do not feel like an outsider
looking in, since ultimately human nature is the same in every city.
And this conclusion was made possible Monatskarte access to Berlin’s every causeway.
Spike Lee's 'Do the Right Thing'
Spontaneous Kino trip: "Do the Right Thing"
30 June 2019
Yesterday it was around 100F (38.3C, a new record) here in Berlin. One of the best city films ever, Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing", is set on such an extremely hot day. In recognition of the unfortunate weather coincidence and of the 30th anniversary of the movie's release, Babylon Kino screened the movie yesterday, and several of us went. Over beers and falafel afterward, we reflected on the street life portrayed in the film (how similar it is to Berlin, how dissimilar to Seattle), the ethnic tensions that were particular to Brooklyn in the 80s but could be transposed to many dense cities, and the unfortunately timely (or, tragically, timeless) portrayal of fatally excessive use of force by the police. We should be able to leave the heat behind us soon; but it will not be easy to forget the intense moments in the movie, at once theatrical and heartbreakingly realistic -- and we wouldn't want to.
For further reading, Richard Brody has an essay at the NYer about the enduring urgency of "Do the Right Thing".
Berlin Film Sites Schnitzeljagd
28 June 2019
We kicked off our scheduled activities with a scavenger hunt across the city, known in German as a "schnitzeljagd" or "schnitzel-hunt." We were joined by Nichole Neuman, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Freie Universität Berlin, who Evan met during his fellowship in Berlin. We met the students at Plus Hotel where Nichole outlined the instructions for the activity and taught us some basic German terms such as "Entschuldigung!" for "Excuse me!" and "Sprechen sie Englisch?" for "Do you speak English?"
Students formed groups of three and had to identify nine sites based on nondescript images from films we had watched as a group, such as Run Lola Run and Wings of Desire. They were given three hours to visit as many sites as they could, and meet us at the Schleusenkrug beer garden over five miles away. Nichole encouraged students to utilize Berlin's excellent public transportation network and engage with local Berliners to find their way.
This activity pushed students out of their comfort zones, and into the city. They saw many of Berlin's famous landmarks in a short period of time, made connections from films we had watched back in Seattle, and gained confidence navigating the nonlinear urban landscape. Two groups managed to visit eight of the nine sites!
Welcome dinner at Osmans Töchter
27 June 2019
Willkommen in Berlin!
We began our time in Berlin the best way we know how, with delicious Turkish food. Most of the students arrived on the warm afternoon of Thursday, June 27th. We checked into Plus Hotel, gathered in the lobby, and took the M10 tram to Prenzlaur Berg for dinner. Osmans Töchter treated us to three courses of tasty bites including green apples with pickled peppers, giant beans in tomato sauce, leeks in olive oil, caramelized onions with goat cheese, vegan meatballs, grilled chicken, cucumbers in yogurt, and the best hummus we've ever had -- topped off with dessert and a Turkish digestif. It was the perfect space to relax after a long day of travel, mingle with new roommates, and share our excitement for the month to come.